NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A project to improve the water supply in Gallup and the Navajo Nation has hit a big hiccup. It has to travel through private land and there’s a question of who owns it. 

Now, the government is going to federal court trying to apply eminent domain. It’s a few acres of land belonging to the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Reservation, and the City of Gallup.

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“It’s what we term friendly condemnation because there was an unclear title and this was a way for us to purchase right away the land owner parcel,” says Bart Deming from the Bureau of Reclamation. 

The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project broke ground in 2010. The agency says the project will provide a reliable “long-term water supply” to Gallup and the Navajo Nation. 

It will move more than 37,000 acre-feet of water yearly from the San Juan River Basin through more than 280 miles of pipeline. 

While in this case, the land owners are willing to give up the land, a University of New Mexico law professor says using eminent domain is not uncommon.         

“Under the fifth amendment of the constitution of the United States Constitution, the government can only take private land if it gives just compensation to the land owners and the easement owners,” says Carol Suzuki. 

The project is being funded through federal and state funds. According to the civil case, the estimated compensation is $17,500 for the area. 

The Bureau says that once the project is complete, it will provide for more than 250,000 people by the year 2040 using river water instead of relying on aquifers.